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An Introduction to Biodynamic Preparations

by Hugh Courtney, 2017 Celestial Planting Calendar

Rudolf Steiner in the early part of the last century (1924) offered the concept of the preparations to farmers concerned about some of the already negative results of the use of agricultural chemicals. Biodynamic agriculture does not just offer an alternative to chemical agriculture; it offers a means to renew agriculture at a basic spiritual level. In a statement to Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, Steiner stated that the purpose of the preparations was to “heal the earth.” In an effort to both encourage and challenge growers to proceed with a true biodynamic effort, a summary of Steiner’s preparations and a brief background as to why their use is important is outlined in what follows.

The Spray Preparations: Horn Manure and Horn Silica

Steiner presented two basic preparations now known as horn manure (BD500), and horn silica (BD501). BD500 consists of cow manure packed into a cow horn and buried during the winter months. BD501 involves finely powdered silica (most often from quartz crystals) packed into a cow horn, but buried in the summer months. For use, a small portion of each is separately stirred for one full hour and sprayed on the soil (BD500) and on plants (BD501). The simplistic description of the result for BD500 is that it “enlivens” the soil, whereas BD501 “strengthens” the plant. In a more imaginative view, the horn manure, by awakening “earthly” forces, turns dead soil into living humus, while the horn silica brings down cosmic forces to allow the plant to connect with its spiritual archetype. They are to be used together to harmonize and balance the realm of agriculture and the natural world. A one-sided emphasis on the horn manure, which often is the case in biodynamics, can actually lead to rampant growth. 

The classic approach in biodynamic practice is that before these spray preparations are to be used, one should have first applied compost made with the six compost preparations. 

Horsetail Preparation

Steiner finished his lecture on preparations by describing one more spray, the horsetail herb, Equisetum arvense, which is referred to as BD508. In some European circles it is not assigned a designation as a preparation. Steiner offered a recipe for horsetail to be used as a kind of liquid manure to counter the strong fungus inducing forces of the Moon. Close observation of its use suggests that horsetail may be very helpful in stimulating or diminishing the watery forces in one’s biodynamic practice.  

The Compost Preparations

Steiner gives us a description of the farm as a living organism or a ‘farm individuality,’ which ultimately strives to be self-sustaining. If we picture the role of the preparations in manifesting this organism, and assign each preparation the same ‘nature’ in the compost pile that various organs have in the human body, we may understand better the importance of making compost with these six preparations. When we use the compost preparations, we are co-creating with them a living organism that will help awaken an ‘individuality’ for our farm or garden. It is helpful to view each preparation as a carrier or vehicle of various forces, and not see them as merely material substance. For instance, it is not so much the substance of an element, say silicon, but rather the energetic forces associated with it.

Yarrow blossoms, in bladder of a stag (BD502), relates to lungs and bladder, respiratory system. Enables plants to attract trace elements in extremely dilute quantities for their best nutrition.

Chamomile blossoms, in bovine intestines (BD503), relates to the digestive system. Stabilizes nitrogen within the compost and awakens soil life so as to stimulate plant growth.

Stinging nettles, above ground plant (BD504) surrounded by peat moss when  buried, relates to the heart, spleen and circulatory system. Enhances and stimulates soil health, providing plants with individual nutritional components. “Enlivens” the earth (soil).

Oak bark, in skull of a domestic animal (BD505), relates to the brain and nervous system. Provides healing forces or qualities to combat harmful plant diseases. 

Dandelion blossoms, enclosed in mesentery or peritoneum tissue (BD506), relates to the liver, gall bladder and hepatic system.  Stimulates the relation between silicon and potassium so that the silicon can attract cosmic forces to the soil.

Valerian blossom juice, fermented (BD507), relates to the skin and skeleton. Stimulates compost so that phosphorus components are properly used by the soil.

Using the Compost Preparations

The ingredients of a compost pile can include a wide range of vegetative matter, such as hay, straw, garden residues, grass clippings, kitchen wastes, as well as animal manures, soil and rock dusts. The pile is built in layers of the different materials alternating between dry and green (or carbon and nitrogen) matter. A backyard compost pile needs to be 3’ x 3’ x 3’ as a minimum. Anything smaller will not heat up effectively. Each pile requires its own set of compost preparations. The compost preparations are inserted into the newly built pile as early in the composting process as possible. Although the Valerian preparation is often sprayed over the pile, some practitioners choose to place it into the pile. One does not need to constantly turn a pile once the preparations have been inserted; turning is necessary only to ensure composting of weed seeds. Frequent turning simply oxidizes the material rather than allowing it to go through a breakdown and subsequent buildup of humus.

Compost can be used at the point when it has transformed into a colloidal nature. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer indicated that Root crops (carrots, etc.) should receive well-finished, year-old compost, whereas Fruit crops, especially heavy feeders such as tomatoes, should receive three-month-old compost. Leaf and Flower crops should be given six-month-old compost. A simple experiment making two different piles side by side using the same ingredients, with one pile treated with BD preparations will clearly demonstrate how effective these preparations transform raw materials into good humus.

Barrel Compost (BC) - Also called Cow Pat Pit or Fladen-preparat, barrel compost is a recipe devised by Maria Thun consisting of 50 liters (12.5 gallons) of fresh cow manure, 500 grams of basalt (volcanic rock) powder and 100 grams of ground eggshells, stirred together for one hour, placed in a bottomless barrel buried halfway in the ground with the six compost preparations inserted into this mixture. This is one of several compound preparations designed to be used in spray form to bring the energy of the compost more readily into the soil. It is an excellent tool when sufficient compost is lacking.

Three Kings Preparation (HE8) - A special preparation developed by Hugo Erbe intended to create a sanctuary for elemental beings against the effects of radiation. Consisting of Aurum (gold) D-2 homeopathic dilution, Frankincense and Myrrh in equal portions, ground together with mortar and pestle for one hour, preferably at the midnight hour on New Year’s Eve (the midpoint of the 12 days of Christmas) and then applied on the afternoon of Three Kings Day (January 6), the conclusion of the 12 days. Steiner indicated that New Year’s Eve midnight is a unique and special time when cosmic forces radiate onto Earth.

Harmonizing Preparation (HE9) - Also developed by Hugo Erbe, this preparation consists of sunflower oil, salt, egg whites, honey, cow’s milk and red grape juice specially blended with wheat grits or whole wheat flour and applied during the season of Michaelmas (September 29), is intended as an expression of gratitude to the elemental beings.  

For availability of Rudolf Steiner’s and Hugo Erbe’s preparations contact Earth Legacy Agriculture, L.L.C., PO Box 72, Woolwine, VA 24185 USA; phone 276-930-1377 or email

Hugh Courtney - Writer, Mentor, Researcher 

In addition to contributing articles, Hugh Courtney has taken on the advisory role of forecasting favourable and unfavorable times for this calendar. He has devoted more than 40 years to perfecting the art of making biodynamic preparations. Taking a cue from his own mentor, Josephine Porter, who declared, “These preparations are no secret, I will teach anyone who wants to learn how to make them,” he has mentored hundreds of people on the finer points of making quality preparations. 

Ever concerned about keeping this special art form alive into the future, in 2009, along with his grandson, Jeremiah Proctor, Hugh founded Earth Legacy Agriculture, LLC to provide quality preparations for discerning practitioners.

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